It looks like congressional Democrats and the White House will get those $1,400 stimulus checks out the door in the next few weeks. Economists and the government are hoping you spend 100% of that money immediately to boost the economy. A booming economy would be a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your whole check. Instead, consider this a once-in-a-lifetime chance to chip away at your debt, pay off high-interest credit cards or start building your savings.

Having more cash on hand will be a good thing. Many people, according to the Fed, can’t even find $400 if they need it. When people don’t have emergency funds, their lives can spiral out of control. People in debt find themselves more likely to ask family and friends for loans and gifts, which can strain relationships. Without a cushion, people become more likely to draw down their retirement savings, use credit cards or payday loans, pawn or sell possessions, and take on extra jobs. No wonder people in debt are more unhappy and stressed. Saving some of your stimulus check may be able to save you from these negative effects.

The power of compounding interest is astounding — let that be a saving and anti-debt motivator. If you put $1,000 away now, forget about it, and earn 5% per year on it, you will have over $1,200 on the next inauguration day in 2025. That might not sound like much, but you didn’t sacrifice anything to get it. And if you seed your account with $1,000 and save just $83 per month, you’ll have over $5,700. In contrast, if you go on a stimulus-check spending spree and add debt to a credit card with a 17% interest rate, you will be over $7,700 in the red.

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